The voting period for the 2022 Changemaker Awards is now closed.
Congratulations to our three 2023 FENV Changemakers:
Ellen Watters, Dean's Choice Awardee
Voting is now open to choose the 2023 SFU FENV Changemakers of the Year. A total of three awards will be given out. Two awardees will be determined by public electronic voting and one will be determined by the dean and associate deans of the Faculty
- Receive $400 to support professional development.
- Be profiled on social media and SFU/Faculty news.
- Join a community of Changemakers!
How to vote:
- Vote for up to two nominees
- Voting is open to everyone
- Please only vote once. Duplicate votes will be deleted and only the initial vote will be valid.
Read through the nomination packages below! Nominees are listed in order of submission.
Matthew Syvenky (he/him) | BEnv, Resource and Environmental Management, Minor in Physical Geography
Matthew is a 3rd-year undergraduate majoring in Resource and Environmental Management (REM), with a minor in Physical Geography and a Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Matthew is passionate about ecological restoration, invasive species management, and biodiversity preservation. Matthew is Chair of BC Nature’s Climate Committee and is on the board of directors for the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver and the Cariboo Heights Forest Preservation Society. Matthew spearheaded an ecosystem restoration project in April 2022, where he collaborated with the City of Burnaby, BC Hydro, and the Invasive Species Council of BC. Matthew and his team of 15 diverse volunteers from across Metro Vancouver removed over 500 kilograms of invasive Himalayan blackberry and restored the site with native plants. Matthew is excited to speak on the Rubus Restoration pilot project at the INVASIVES 2023 Forum in early March.
Outside of Matthew’s various volunteer commitments, Matthew is passionate about exploring the outdoors and participating in community science initiatives. Matthew has a self-proclaimed healthy addiction to iNaturalist, where community scientists observe and identify the living things they find around them in everyday life. Matthew has recently taken up open water scuba diving, where he plans to take his passions for photography, biodiversity, and iNaturalist underwater!
Matthew is constantly looking for opportunities to make new connections, learn about the natural world, and be an active steward of the natural world. If you see Matthew wandering around on campus, feel free to say hello!
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
Mathew found his life’s calling as an environmentalist when he started volunteering with the Invasive Species Council of B.C. (ISCBC). He has been a volunteer with ISCBC for two years. Since joining the ISCBC volunteer program, he has dedicated 1,000 hours to the program and has been part of five volunteer teams.
In ISCBC’s social media team, he worked with volunteers to write catchy and informative social media posts for ISCBC’s social media platforms. As part of the newsletter team, he collaborated with volunteers to distribute bi-weekly newsletters, featuring climate and invasive species news for the rest of the council’s volunteers to enjoy. In the digital media team, he uploaded photos he took of invasive and non-invasive species in B.C. to be used in the ISCBC’s promotions, website, and social media. He was part of the Envrionmentor team, a small group of platinum ranked ISCBC volunteers committed to mentoring new ISCBC volunteers. Finally, he attend frequent in-person ISCBC events, where volunteers participate in Indigenous-led workshops, explore the Lower Mainland’s biodiversity, and restore local ecosystems.
He recently began the next step in his passion for invasive species. He has been accepted into the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver’s board of directors. As a director, he will help guide the activities of the council. He hopes to use his position as a young university student to increase invasive species engagement in local post-secondary institutions.
He is the youngest board member of the Cariboo Heights Forest Preservation Society, a member society of BC Nature. As a board member, he attends regular meetings concerning the preservation of the Cariboo Heights Forest, which is threatened by urban development plans. He visits the forest regularly to help host invasive plant pulls, trail maintenance parties, and community volunteer events. Outside of the forest, he helps run booths at city-wide events in Burnaby to share the story of the forest with concerned citizens across the Lower Mainland. Burnaby has recently begun revising the Cariboo heights development plan. A vote was held in the municipal election to protect a portion of the forest and the vote passed, thanks in-part to our conservation and awareness efforts.
Since fall 2022, he has been busy as the youngest member and Chair of the BC Nature Climate Committee. The committee represents the climate concerns of over 6,000 BC Nature members and 56 BC Nature member organizations. As Chair, he leads the conversation on what steps the committee and BC Nature should take next regarding the climate crisis. The committee’s current mission is to secure funding for climate awareness and education projects. He is thankful to the entire Climate Committee for all of the wisdom and hard work that they put into the committee.
In the spring of 2021, he applied to the Canadian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC is a federally funded 3-stage conservation program for young adults that accepts a few dozen applicants each year. He earned an interview right away, and before he knew it, he was a part of an 8-person cohort.
For the first stage of the CCC, he worked with the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s (BCWF) Youth Program. In my position, he designed engaging conservation lessons and activities to be presented during the federation’s summer camps. He helped lead 5 summer camps for over 100 children and youth. "I was privileged to have the opportunity to teach the next generation of children about land stewardship, conservation, and climate change. I am hopeful that the time these youth spent at camp will positively influence their life and make them more passionate, powerful stewards and advocates for a sustainable world."
For the second stage of the CCC, himself and his cohort embarked on a 14-day sea kayaking expedition throughout the Broughton Archipelago. On this trip, he was tested in his outdoor abilities and his ability to thrive in the wilderness with limited resources. He took part in self-guided beach cleanups at our nightly island stops to keep the archipelago as clean as possible. As part of the expedition, he was left alone on an island for 24 hours. Here, he did nothing but journal, meditate, and listen to the ravens, seals, and whales as they said hello.
In the third stage of the CCC, participants are tasked to implement a conservation project in their community. For my third stage, he spearheaded and led a riparian restoration project called Rubus Restoration. His project took place along Ancient Grove creek in the Cariboo Heights Forest. For his project, he led collaborations with the City of Burnaby, BC Hydro, Invasive Species Council of B.C., and the Cariboo Heights Forest Preservation Society to remove Himalayan blackberry from the riparian and restore the site with native plants. He acquired $2,200 in grants to purchase landscaping equipment and plants to restore the site.
They completed the Rubus Restoration project over 5 weeks, with 15 diverse volunteers from across Metro Vancouver committing over 135 hours. Over 500 kilograms of Himalayan blackberry were removed from the site. A variety of 23 native plants were planted in the site, along with 100’s of native seeds. After he completed the project, he donated the equipment that he purchased with the grants to local environmental NGOs. He will be recruiting volunteers from across the Lower Mainland in the near future to help manage the regrowth of invasive species in the site.
Since completing the pilot project for Rubus Restoration, he has been busy hosting garbage cleanups in natural areas in partnership with other local NGOs. He helps host these ecological cleanups along beautiful natural areas ranging from the Brunette River to the Fraser River. In the past six months of holding cleanups, they have removed well over 1000 kilograms of garbage from these natural spaces.
When he moved into his current home three years ago, he discovered a local creek, Salamander Creek, covered in nothing but Himalayan blackberry. Salamander Creek was inaccessible to wildlife and lacked biodiversity. He took it upon himself to remove the Himalayan blackberry and restore the riparian with native species. This project has been three years of frequent maintenance, as invasive species grow back, garbage flows into the creek, and blockages build up from storms. In the past two years he has planted over 60 plants along the riparian and removed over 800 kilograms of Himalayan blackberry. This portion of Salamander creek is now more biodiverse and accessible than it has been in decades. He earned the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Friendly Habitat designation for his successful efforts to transform a degraded urban greenspace into a diverse ecosystem.
This past summer he worked as an ecological restoration technician. In his role, he traveled all around the Lower Mainland as part of a small team to remove invasive species from crucial ecosystems like Burns Bog and Seymour Mountain. He removed invasive species for just under 3 months for nearly 40 hours a week, 5 days a week, and loved every minute of it.
He has worked eagerly and tirelessly to steward British Columbia’s ecosystems. He will continue to spread awareness, appreciation, and understanding of nature to those around him.
Max MacInnes-Cann | BEnv, Global Environmental Systems
Max MacInnes-Cann is a first-year student in the Department of Geography, studying Global Environmental Systems. Despite being new to SFU, she has dived right into everything the university has to offer, taking on leadership roles in the Geography Student Union and the Student Leadership Team. Max is also a passionate advocate for the environment, with significant involvement in climate organizing and activism. She is currently a mentor for Bridging Environments, a FEnv program that connects university students to high school sustainability clubs in the Lower Mainland. In her free time, Max makes amazing crocheted items and takes spectacular photos on her film camera.
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
Despite 2022-2023 being Max's first year at SFU, she has already established herself as a leader within the Faculty of Environment, taking on leadership roles within the Student Leadership Team, the Experiential Learning Trip planning team, and the Geography Student Union. In these roles, she is contributing to positive social changes that ensure our faculty is inclusive to all students and provides ample opportunities for students to be involved.
Max also has a strong passion for climate action and justice, and has extended her high school advocacy work to university by serving as a mentor in the FEnv's Bridging Environments program, which connects university students to high school sustainability clubs.
Most importantly, Max is a changemaker through the everyday things she does to make the lives of the students around her better. Whether she's attending a Geography Student Union meeting or helping plan a protest, her presence is invigorating and energizing. She gives groups the good humour, motivation, and drive to achieve their objectives - while enjoying the entire process!
Emma Kingsland (she/her) | BEnv, Resource Environmental Management, Biology Minor
Emma Kingsland is currently a student at SFU studying Resource Environmental Management and Biology. She is passionate about coastal stewardship, wildlife conservation, and environmental education. Emma works as the Conservation Stewardship Assistant for the B.C. Wildlife Federation (BCWF) and is one of three Co-Leads on the Year of the Salish Sea (YOSS) initiative. Through her work with the BCWF Emma has helped develop workshops that engage members of the public in conservation stewardship and restoration projects across the province of BC. To advance radical coastal stewardship in the Salish Sea region Emma has worked with other SFU students to develop the YOSS initiative. The initiative calls on coastal municipalities to act as a catalyst for other governing bodies, organizations, and community groups to join a collective effort to improve the health and management of the Salish Sea and raise public awareness about the importance of a revitalized and healthy sea. Ten municipalities along the coast of BC and Washington have proclaimed June 8, 2022 to June 7, 2023 the Year of the Salish Sea. Working with municipalities and ENGOs to advance conservation stewardship initiatives has allowed Emma to participate in community events, dialogues, and conferences as a young environmental professional.
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
Emma Kingsland is currently a student at SFU studying Resource Environmental Management and Biology. Emma is one of three Co-Leads on the Year of the Salish Sea initiative. The initiative was developed at SFU through the Semester in Dialogue program. Once the program ended Emma and a few other students continued to work on the initiative. The initiative calls on coastal municipalities to act as a catalyst for other governing bodies, organizations, and community groups to join a collective effort to improve the health and management of the Salish Sea and raise public awareness about the importance of a revitalized and healthy sea. Emma has presented at municipal council meetings about the importance of collaboration in the management of the Salish Sea and the urgency for climate action. This has resulted in 10 municipalities along the coast of BC and Washington proclaiming June 8, 2022, to June 7, 2023, the Year of the Salish Sea. Through municipal proclamation, the Year of the Salish Sea opens opportunities for increased public education and engagement opportunities, collaboration in ocean initiatives, and advocacy for policy change in ocean management. Emma has given talks about collaboration in ocean initiatives and youth leadership in conservation at events such as the CPAWS BC Ocean Fest Speaker Series in collaboration with IMPAC5, Ocean Wise Ocean Bridge Developing Lcoal Environmental Initiatives Program, and Coho Festival Tent Talks. Emma additionally supports the YOSS initiative by attending outreach events and coordinating stakeholder engagement.
Year of the Salish Sea Website: https://yearofthesalishsea.ca/
Coho Festival Tent Talk "Year of the Salish Sea, Collaboration of our Collective Future": https://www.cohosociety.com/coho-festival/coho-festival-highlights/
Quoted in article: https://www.raincoast.org/2022/04/the-year-of-the-salish-sea/#:~:text=Running%20from%20June%208%2C%202022,stewardship%20work%20through%20public%20engagement.
Seniha Inceoz (she/they) | BA, Archaeology, Certificate in Biological Anthropology
Seniha Inceoz is a fourth-year archaeology major and is also completing a Certificate in Biological Anthropology. In addition to being a full-time student, Seniha works as a junior archaeologist at a Cultural Resource Management consulting firm and is completing a work-study position with SFPIRG. Seniha has also worked and volunteered in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the archaeology laboratories. She currently serves as the SFSS Councillor on the Archaeology Student Society board.
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
Seniha Inceoz is a Changemaker dedicated to humanitarian efforts and fighting for social justice. Seniha can be found lending her voice to causes that influence people globally and locally. Following the recent earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria, Seniha jumped into action to organize a proactive donation relief effort among archaeology students – which would later spread to faculty and other departments. Seniha and a small group of students made almost daily deliveries to a drop-off site collecting food and clothing donations to send to Turkiye. In addition to this stand-out example of Seniha’s commitment to humanitarianism, she is currently working as the Coordinator of SFPIRG’s Letters for the Inside project, which responds to research requests from imprisoned peoples. The project has a meaningful impact on the quality of life for some of society’s most marginalized and forgotten people. Seniha Inceoz is one of the most dedicated and compassionate Changemakers I have had the pleasure of knowing at SFU - she is truly deserving of this recognition.
Leah Coppella (she/her/hers) | PhD Candidate, Geography
Leah Coppella is a Health Services researcher, PhD student in geography, and community organizer. She collaborates in research with Fraser Health Authority on older adults and sexual health, especially in Long-Term Care and Assisted Living. Her past research includes engagement with feminist theory, specifically intersectionality theory and embodiment theory. Her SSHRC CGS-M funded MA at York University focused on feminist health geography, geographies of home, adolescent girls’, trans’, and nonbinary youths’ sexual wellbeing in Toronto during COVID-19 lockdowns. This work was also awarded the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Graduate Research Award, the Dr. Eric Jackman Health Scholars Award, and was nominated for a Thesis Award. Her undergraduate essays at Carleton University heavily explored intersections between gender identity and environmental attitudes. Throughout her time in academia, she has been on numerous academic committees for research and global affairs and feminist mobilizing. She is also on the Canadian Association of Geographers working group, Feminist Intersectional Solidarity Group (FIGS,) Executive Committee. Outside of academia, In her Changemaking volunteer work, Leah has worked with the NDP, political feminist organizations, universities, magazines, and local Ottawa newsrooms. Her volunteer work within communities includes work with the Ottawa Coalition of Community Houses, Charity Runs, and Girls Inc. Currently, she is volunteering as a Resource Development Coordinator with PLEDJ, a non-profit dedicated to developing leadership amongst marginalized communities in Jordan, Israel and Palestine by strengthening the relationship between academia and community work for local, national, and international social change.
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
Through study, research, non-profit work and volunteering, Leah builds resilience and empowers communities, especially those of marginalized groups, such as women and LGBTQ folx. Her research has centred around community-based participatory research with young people and her volunteer work with PLEDJ has focused on empowering, organizing, and mobilizing communities in Jordan, Israel and Palestine alongside policy-makers, academics, and activists, to design practical models of community organization, training programs and research projects. She has created Peer Mentor programs for graduate geographers and is an active Canadian Association of Geographers working group, the Feminist Intersectional Solidarity Group (FIGS,) Executive Committee member. She continues her commitment to empowering journalism through her work as a freelance journalist (see example submitted), committed to telling the stories of those who often go unheard. Her community-based approach to work, school and life is founded on a commitment to a feminist ethic of care. Her breadth of work and community makes her a change-maker in introducing folks to the interdisciplinary nature of geography and the opportunities for community-building within it.
Spirit Mayo (He/him/his) | BEnv, Global Environmental Systems
Spirit Mayo is a 3rd year Global Environmental Systems Major in SFU's Department of Geography. He is a current member of SFU 350, the Faculty of Environment's Student Leadership Team and the Bridging Environment's and Environmentors Programs. Currently, Spirit works as a community advisor for SFU Residence, enahancing student's on-campus experience.
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
Spirit is a core leader of SFU 350, a student-led climate activism club at SFU. He participates in the group's reinvestment initiative, following their successful divestment campaign in 2021, to encourage universities to move 10% of their endowment and working capital fund into community investments that support a vibrant and local economy, amongst other recommendations. Spirit also volunteers for the faculty of environment student leadership team, bridging environments and environmentors programs. While Spirit works on residence as a community advisor he connects residents with opportunities to contribute to a positive environmental change with resources at SFU from the faculty and other on-campus climate activism organizations and programs. Spirit aspires to provide ways that everyone can contribute to creating an equitable and sustainable world.
Ellen Watters (She/hers) | BEnv, Resource and Envrionmental Management, Planning stream
Ellen Watters (she/her) hails from Vancouver Island on the traditional and ancestral lands of the Tsartslip Nation. She was raised in a blended family with 5 siblings of Jamaican and Japanese heritage, and is of Thai and Cree heritage herself. As someone who expresses their creative outlet through cooking and baking, it has been a fun and delicious journey connecting to her heritage and cultural background by learning how to make food.
Alongside being a creative outlet, Ellen believes making food (especially for friends and family) is a celebration and an expression of love. Her love for food has also transferred over in her studies at SFU as an Environmental and Resource Management Planning student where she has a special interest in sustainable food systems. She is excited about the challenge of incorporating food systems planning in an urban context.
In her spare time, Ellen enjoys novice bird watching at Burnaby Lake, open-water swimming, and slowly knocking books off her TBR list.
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
Ellen has been integral in the food justice community at SFU this past year. She started off as a Food Justice volunteer at Embark Sustainability Society, where her commitment to learning and growing with her team resulted in the implementation of Nourishing Perspectives, a Food Justice Exhibition event in 2022. Within this event, Ellen and her team created a space for 5 student artists to share their experiences and relationships to food justice and food (in)security. The event also allowed about 35 student attendees to listen and learn from food justice advocates in the community and engage with them.
This year, Ellen became the Food Justice Coordinator at Embark, where she led a team of facilitators to learn about Food Justice, where she embedded the importance of centring cultural relevancy and equitable access into discussions about food security and food justice more broadly. Through this, Ellen planned, hosted, and invited others to share their culture and other important topics through Embark’s monthly Community Kitchens.
At the end of 2022, Ellen also led her team in the ideation, planning, and management stages of Foodscapes: a Food Security Soiree. This event allowed for discussions about food security initiatives across the lower mainland with key stakeholders representing the food security sector in Burnaby, and across post-secondary campuses. The following questions were asked and explored with the attendees: What gaps in lower mainland’s foodscape need to be filled, and how can we build a future where nutritious food is accessible to everyone? Where can students get involved in the community to support their communities through food initiatives? Where can students access food at low-cost or free? Around 30 students attended and Ellen created a space through the event for such vital conversations to take place.
Brennan Strandberg-Salmon (he/him) | BEnv, Resource and Environmental Management, Minor in Dialogue
Brennan Strandberg-Salmon (he/him) is a researcher, project manager, policy advisor, and volunteer coordinator with a passion for youth-led climate justice advocacy and climate policy. A 4th-year Resource and Environmental Student, Brennan leads the Climate Change Branch at the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), which empowers youth to advocate for equitable climate policy at all levels of government through hands-on research, communications, and delegations to international climate change conferences. In that role he is responsible for recruiting and coordinating 30 youth volunteers annually and the publication of reports on green jobs, climate change and the circular economy. Brennan is also a part-time federal government policy analyst helping develop a climate lens on all of government’s decisions and budgets, for Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). This builds upon a past co-op role with the Canadian government. Other previous green jobs include Water Efficiency Advisor for the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan, Climate Emergency Policy Analyst for BCCIC where he produced a climate change guide for industry associations which has been downloaded 1,500 times, and Project Coordinator for ECCC to help organize the World Circular Economy Forum 2021 which engaged 4,000 people in discussions about closing the loop on waste. Brennan is in his last semester of his SFU degree. At university, Brennan has been involved with SFU350 since 2018, where he was a key player in the club’s successful efforts to get the university to divest from fossil fuels and declare a climate emergency. Brennan thrives in outdoor environments and enjoys hiking, dragon boating, water skiing, and exploring nature locally and during travels abroad.
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
I've been continuously impressed with Brennan's commitment to fostering meaningful change from SFU to the community to the global scale and believe he is an excellent candidate for this award. Ever since grade school, Brennan has dedicated himself to creating waves of change in his community, school, and workplace. Through youth organizing, timely and relevant research, and effective lobbying of government and administrations, Brennan has successfully challenged the status quo to make the world better for youth and future generations. Focused on climate justice, he has also advanced the circular economy, ecological restoration, water stewardship, responsible investing, and sustainable industry. He has supported over one hundred youth to build their capacity and find their voice as youth climate leaders so they, too, can go on to make a difference in their careers and communities.
In high school he led the Environmental Club, where he successfully championed a campaign to switch his school’s copier paper to a more sustainable alternative, and successfully earned his school a “Bee School” certification to support pollinators. For this effort, he was received the City of Burnaby’s Youth Environment Award. Outside of school, he led initiatives for greater youth involvement in ecological restoration at Stoney Creek, a salmon-bearing stream near Burnaby Mountain. Together, they pulled 25 bags of invasive species and educated over 200 people about the importance of pollinators and the steps individuals can take. Through his involvement with Force of Nature, a local climate action NGO, he lobbied local governments for climate emergency declarations and solar energy solutions. At SFU, he joined SFU350, where he researched and recommended strategies to SFU’s Responsible Investment Committee to reduce the carbon footprint of their investment portfolio and engage companies on climate leadership, eventually resulting in SFU’s commitment to fully divest from fossil fuels in 2021. He also contributes his experience and knowledge on sustainability advisory committees providing a youth perspective on strategies to advance a sustainable future, including for SFU and the Fraser Basin Council.
Since 2019, Brennan has volunteered with the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation’s youth-run Climate Change Branch, which he now leads. Under his leadership, the program has engaged nearly 100 youth in hands-on research and policy advocacy on climate change, from local to international levels. In his role, he helped secure over $60,000 in grant funding to support the organization’s youth engagement and climate action, including their youth delegation program to COP 26 in Scotland and COP 27 in Egypt. Brennan has overseen six youth-led policy and research projects, including a climate justice toolkit for municipalities, a report on how the circular economy is a climate solution for BC, a green jobs toolkit for high school career educators, and a climate change guide for industry and professional associations, which was adopted by associations across Canada and beyond, even as far away as Australia. He also leads and coordinates government relations and advocacy to promote progressive climate change action, including with cabinet ministers of the BC Government. Recently, Brennan was appointed the Chair of BC Nature’s Climate Change Committee, which is responsible for engaging community nature clubs in local climate action. I believe that Brennan's work will continue to inspire and build hope for a generation of young changemakers leading the way towards a climate just future.
Rachel Vimbikayi Chimuka (She/her)| PhD Candidate, Geography
Rachel Chimuka is a second-year Geography doctoral student from Zimbabwe. She currently serves as the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) graduate representative in the departmental EDI Committee. In her role, she ensures that the graduate student perspective is heard, and collaborates with committee members to build an inclusive environment within the department. Within the Climate Research lab, she leads EDI sessions to improve awareness on EDI issues and foster an inclusive lab culture. In 2022, she was nominated to the SFU Field Safety Advisory Committee by the Geography Student Society as the inaugural graduate student representative. In her role, she works to expand the notion of field safety to include psychological safety, i.e., doing everything in our power to protect graduate students and minority groups from discrimination out in the field. Beyond the university bounds, she serves as the Vice President, EDI at Full Picture Research & Technologies, a machine learning and artificial intelligence start-up, where she ensures there is an EDI perspective to every aspect of the business. She also created an online platform The Inclusive Gradvocate that raises awareness about the experiences e.g., discrimination and microaggressions, faced by graduate students in minority groups e.g., BIPOC, 2SLGBTQIA2+, disabled etc., and provides space for conversation, positivity, and advocates for change. Rachel is a servant leader who works to improve the world in the ways she can everywhere she goes. She strives to step up when needed, challenging herself to do so even in face of inconvenience and fear, and always seeks ways to create space for those who are marginalized, silenced or unheard. Her sense of social responsibility, along with her courage, perseverance and active-listening skills, have enabled her to continue to bring positive change to her university community and beyond.
What makes the nominee a changemaker?
Rachel is an exceptional leader, who consistently goes above and beyond to address inequities and create supportive and inclusive spaces within the university.
Rachel has served as graduate student representative on Geography’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee since its creation in fall 2020. Her presence on the EDI Committee has been essential, consistently urging the committee and therefore the department to think structurally and expansively about what creating more equitable and inclusive policies entails. As the committee worked towards establishing a set of EDI principles to shape departmental Governance, Rachel consistently pushed the committee to create principles that were more targeted and less ambiguous – in essence, to create structures and policies that would produce tangible results. For example, she used sharing of a personal experience to push the committee to develop better policies to protect Black, Indigenous and other marginalized students from discrimination when attending field trips. Her recommendations on the committee were then passed on to the Faculty of Environment level, and Rachel went on to join the Field Safety Advisory Committee as a Graduate Student Representative to affect broader institutional change to protect minority groups from discrimination. In her role she designed and evaluated a graduate field safety survey with an EDI focus, presented results to the Committee and formulated recommendations.
In our research group, Rachel was instrumental in initiating discussions about our group’s culture and practices with the goal of making it more inclusive. She suggested readings and facilitated a discussion about discrimination in climate science. In follow-up discussions she challenged group members to identify barriers to the recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented groups, and to identify actions to make our group more welcoming and inclusive. As a result of these discussions group members have developed heightened awareness of the barriers and discrimination underrepresented groups face in research settings, and are in the process of identifying a set of concrete actions to be implemented in our research group to better meet the needs of Black, Indigenous and other marginalized students.
Rachel’s vision, dedication and persistence of has profoundly altered SFU’s Geography department, and her broader influence will surely be felt for years to come.